“The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads” …
Every year on Christmas Eve, I read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to my kids. We all sit on one bed–usually a dog pile or WWE match occurs during the process– and they finish each sentence from the poem that rhymes. It’s not a sweet and gentle moment but it’s one I treasure because of the laughter and silliness it brings out in each of them. It’s our little tradition and one I will miss deeply one day.
This year, those words echoed in my head long after I finished reading and said good-night to my three kids, who by the way, are no longer kids. I pondered why that was suddenly my favorite line of the poem and why did my voice crack when I read it this year? I’ve read that poem probably 100 times and never felt emotional, so why was this year different? The answer was simple: having my three kids all sleeping in their bed is the best Christmas present I could ask for. My nest is full and so is my heart.
As my kids get older, they seem to be home less and less. They are busy chilling with their friends and hanging out most weekend nights. I often doze off before two oldest are even home because I’m old and tired.
My oldest son is away at college so the days of knowing he is tucked safely into bed are over. He is the keeper of his time schedule now and I am an outlier when it comes to his sleeping life. Sure, I text him to check in, “Are you getting ready to go sleep?” and the same answer comes back time after time “Yep, goodnight Mom”. And while I trust him, I never really know. I like to envision him sleeping in his little cocoon with his fresh sheets (A mom can wish) having sweet dreams but in the back of my mind I know I’m just kidding myself. He’s in college and I remember what I was like in college.
So, for now, I just lean into my little illusion because that’s the only way I will be able to go to sleep and rest completely. Call it denial, or a dream or mind-trickery, but it works.
The same goes with my high schooler. If he is out with friends, I “half-ass sleep”, meaning I sleep but not fully. I listen for the front door or the garage door to open, so I can sigh and thank God for bringing him home safely. My son laughs at my worries and assures me he is a good driver but it’s not him I’m concerned with, it’s all the crazy people on the road with him. That part he doesn’t get.
When your kids are little, you know where they are every night. They are home, where they should be, and they are safe. We tuck them in, read them a story, kiss them good night and they go to sleep. It’s simple, the way life should be.
But as our kids get bigger, so do our worries. We know the dangers out there and it’s hard to let go of the mom-instinct that wants to know exactly where they are, so we can be assured they are out of harm’s way. I know it’s part of the letting go process but it’s a part that aches. Letting go sucks. It creates loss for us as parents – loss of companionship, closeness, communication, and control. My precious babies are moving away from dependence on me and toward being independent of me. Can someone hand me a tissue please?
On the rare night that all three of my kids are all nestled all snug in their beds, my heart is full. It’s a grand slam, a touch down, a goal. They are where they belong and for a moment, time stands still. I am at complete peace and it’s the best feeling in the world. I don’t need to win the lotto to find pure joy- I have it within the walls of my home. Knowing that the four people (gotta count my husband!) I love the most in the entire world are all under one roof, resting soundly, is a priceless gift. I find myself sneaking into their rooms late at night to peek at their sleeping faces and to take in the moment. I look, I sigh, and I smile, both on my face and in my heart.
I hope my kids always want to come home, sleep in their beds and leave adulthood outside my front door. I hope they always want to pile on one bed for a story. I hope they know that having them here on Christmas morning is the best gift ever. I hope they know that my home will always be their home. I hope they know I hug them extra tight because I know I must let go, but I don’t want to. I hope they know that regardless of how big they get, they will always be my babies.
I hope they know that home is not a place, it is a feeling.